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Co-Founder & President
Francesco Femia is Co-Founder & President of the Center for Climate and Security, and Co-Chair of the Climate and Security Advisory Group (CSAG). He leads the Center’s policy development, analysis and research programs, and facilitates the primary forum for climate and security dialogue in the U.S. national security community. He has written, published and spoken extensively on the security implications of climate change, water stress and natural resource mismanagement in Syria and North Africa, including in the seminal report “The Arab Spring and Climate Change,” and in the SAIS Review of International Affairs, among others. He is also a regular commentator on how militaries and intelligence communities address climate change risks. He previously served as Program Director at the Connect U.S. Fund, where he directed programs ranging from international climate policy, to mass atrocity prevention and response. At the Fund, he founded and facilitated the U.S. Climate Leadership Group, a multi-stakeholder effort involving policy institutes and donors in the national security and development sectors. He has over a decade of experience conducting research and policy development on the intersection of climate change, national and international security. Francesco has written for the SAIS Review of International Affairs, the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Angle Journal, Defense News, the Reuters Foundation, the National Journal, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Climate Progress and e-International Relations, and is frequently-cited on climate and security issues, including in the G7-commissioned “A New Climate for Peace” report, the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office’s “Climate Change: A Risk Assessment,” Fox News, Forbes, Stars and Stripes, the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, NBC News, the National Review, Foreign Policy, the Christian Science Monitor, the BBC, the New Republic, Slate, the Toronto Star, the Atlantic, Weather, Climate and Society and the Daily Caller, among others. He holds a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), where he explored EU security and defense policy, including a field study on Cyprus’s stalemated conflict. Francesco also serves on the advisory board of the Nuclear Security Working Group and the Planetary Security Initiative.
Email: ffemia (at) climateandsecurity.org
A recently-released study by Jan Selby and colleagues analyzes existing research on the intersection of climate change and conflict in Syria. The article, published in the Journal of Political Geography, includes a critique of a 2015 study published by the Center for Climate and Security’s (CCS) Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia and Troy Sternberg (and a short briefer by CCS from 2012), as well as two other studies by Colin Kelley et al (2015) and Peter Gleick (2014). More research into the climate-conflict nexus in pre-civil war Syria is certainly welcome for better understanding the risks and informing future policies for addressing them. In this study, Selby et al. point to some important gaps in the data on the connection between displaced peoples and social and political unrest, and the possible role of market liberalization in the Syrian conflict. However, the study does nothing to refute the role of climate change in Syrian instability in the years before the war, while muddying the waters on the subject through a few mischaracterizations that are worth addressing at some length. (more…)
Launch Report: “A Responsibility To Prepare: Governing in an Age of Unprecedented Risk and Unprecedented Foresight,” August 7, 2017
Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia, Sherri Goodman, Shiloh Fetzek, The Center for Climate and Security
Summary: The world in the 21st century is characterized by both unprecedented risks and unprecedented foresight. Climate change, population shifts and cyber-threats are rapidly increasing the scale and complexity of risks to international security, while technological developments are increasing our capacity to foresee those risks. This world of high consequence risks, which can be better modeled and anticipated than in the past, underscores a clear responsibility for the international community: A “Responsibility to Prepare.” This responsibility, which builds on hard-won lessons of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) framework for preventing and responding to mass atrocities, requires a reform of existing governance institutions to ensure that critical, nontraditional risks to international security, such as climate change, are anticipated, analyzed and addressed systematically, robustly and rapidly by intergovernmental security institutions and the security establishments of nations that participate in that system.
A Responsibility to Prepare agenda should be developed and adopted by all nations, while adhering to the overarching principle of “climate-proofing” security institutions at the international, regional and national levels. That climate-proofing would include routinizing, integrating, institutionalizing and elevating attention to climate and security issues at these bodies, as well as establishing rapid response mechanisms, and developing contingencies for potential unintended consequences.
Such an agenda – focused as it is on reforming security institutions – would ensure that critical nontraditional challenges, such as climate change, are appropriately managed as global security risks, rather than as niche concerns. A practical fulfillment of the goals and principles articulated in this Responsibility to Prepare framework would increase the likelihood of more stable governance in the face of rapid but foreseeable change.
This is a blog series highlighting each article in the Center for Climate and Security’s recent report, “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene.”
Climate Change, the Erosion of State Sovereignty, and World Order
By Francesco Femia and Caitlin E. Werrell
The formation and spread of the nation-state has occurred during a relatively stable climatic period—an 11,000-year-plus epoch referred to by geologists as the Holocene. The Holocene, thought to be the longest warm and “stable” climatic period of the last 400,000 years, may have played a significant role in facilitating the development of human civilization. The epoch encompasses the advent of agriculture, the rise and fall of empires and monarchs, and the birth and spread of the nation-state to all corners of the globe. In short, all of modern civilization occurred within the Holocene. In this context, the foundation for the current system of nation-states rests in part on a common assumption that the baseline climatic and natural-resource conditions present until today will generally continue. The flaw in this assumption is that atmospheric conditions, due to human activity, have shifted in an unprecedented way since the mid-20th century, and are changing rapidly. This phenomenon, coupled with massive demographic changes, has led some to assert that that the Earth may have entered a new epoch called the “Anthropocene.” The rapid changes inherent in this epoch could stress the very foundations of the modern nation-state system…